Anwen paced the room in her underclothes as her mother and Queen Evalin watched her from a chair and sofa close by while drinking tea. There was so much that had to be done for the day to go right, and she was afraid she had forgotten something. She didn’t want to look like a fool who had no idea what she was doing at any time, but for the event that was about to take place, she wanted to be very sure she was seen as close to perfect as possible.
“My dear, you have no reason to worry. You have done everything correctly, seen to every detail, and given every order. There is nothing more you can do but trust others to see to their tasks,” said Queen Evalin before she took a sip of tea.
“She is right, dearest. You worrying yourself until you are sick will not help anything. Now come sit and have some of this tea. It will help settle you,” said her mother as she patted the place next to her on the sofa.
“Put your robe on at least before you do, Anwen,” said Queen Evalin. “The room is chilly away from the fire, and I know you must be cold.”
Anwen flopped down next to her mother. “I am not cold, Queen Evalin. I can’t believe that you think this room is chilly. I’m practically sweating through my shift.”
“It is all due to the child you are carrying and the fact you have worked yourself up. Drink your tea and take a moment before you have to get dressed,” said her mother.
Anwen picked up her tea and took a sip as Queen Evalin smiled. “I have checked on the throne room and the temple, and all looks perfect, Anwen. To think we can have so many live flowers at this time of year is amazing. It is almost winter.”
“I have worked to keep a few rose bushes alive during the fall. Those combined with the ones in the conservatory proved enough to make the throne room presentable for the time of year.”
Presentable?” said Queen Evalin as she shook her head with a smile. “It is something out of a dream. I know our lords, ladies, and guests will be impressed. You didn’t need to go to such trouble. Almost all the people already think very well of you.”
Anwen took another sip of her tea and set it down. “I know it is silly to worry so much about appearances, but there are still those who question if I can be Maddoc’s queen. I want to leave them in no doubt that I am capable of the position.”
“You will never please everyone, Anwen,” said her mother. “What matters is that you know you are very capable of being the queen of not only this kingdom but Lucidala as well.”
“She is right, and your king would only have you as his queen. That should be enough for everyone. It was his decision, after all.” Queen Evalin smiled at Anwen.
“I know you are both right. I will just be glad when this is over. It has been exhausting.”
“After today, you must take it easy,” said Queen Evalin. “It will be good to have a small Winter Festival this year due to all that has happened. Perhaps just a feast or two and one ball. You can make an appearance at each, but above all, you must not wear yourself out. Your child will be here very soon after the festival.”
Anwen rubbed her swollen stomach. “If I keep growing like I am, someone might have to roll me down the stairs for the festival.”
“You are not so very big, dearest,” said her mother. “Your petite size just makes you seem so. You can hardly see that you are with child at all with the gown you have chosen for today.”
Anwen looked over at the red and gold gown that hung close to her large mirror. “I had it made for my wedding. I wanted to wear it for this day as well. I am glad it could be let out. I wished to represent my kingdom as I officially take the queen’s crown of this one.”
“Many queens have worn something from their own kingdom when they were married and crowned,” said Queen Evalin. “I did myself. I knew I did what I needed to do, but I was sad to leave my beloved home kingdom, even if there was nothing left for me there.”
Anwen reached over and took Queen Evalin’s hand. “I hope you are happier now than you were that day. You have been an excellent queen for this kingdom and a good mother. I know you had to make some decisions where it seemed like there were no good choices. I believe you always did what you thought was right.”
“But it wasn’t always right,” said Queen Evalin. “I never should have told Maddoc to push you away. I could see he was in love with you. If he had listened to me and married that horrible woman from Parvilia, he would have been miserable.”
“It has all turned out well, so we will leave the past where it belongs,” said Anwen. She let go of Queen Evalin’s hand and turned to her mother. “How is Princess Meira doing?”
“She lives quietly with her husband on a nice estate at the very west of Parvilia. Her daughter was born healthy, and her husband seems pleased with his new life even if the babe does not have his coloring. He is willing to go on with the belief that it is his.”
“The youngest Lawrence boy married her, didn’t he?” asked Queen Evalin.
Anwen’s mother nodded. “He and his family were very willing, especially as they tried to get back into the king’s good graces. Lord Lawrence swore he never supported Prince Korben and just kept neutral, but many still label him a traitor.”
“I never really liked the man, but as long as he lives peacefully under my son’s reign, I shall not wish him ill. That goes for all the lords who Maddoc has granted mercy. I shall wish Princess Meira a long quiet life, too.”
“And King Brone continues to be well?” asked Anwen with a smile towards her mother. “I believe he arrived late last night?”
Her mother blushed a little as she took a sip of her tea. “I believe he did with his young cousin in tow. He has named the boy as his heir. I believe he is a very worthy young man.”
Their conversation was stopped as there was a knock at the door. Anwen rose to answer it to find Mrs. Owens with two other servants.
“It is time for you to prepare,” said Anwen’s mother as she and Queen Evalin stood up. “We will leave you so you can get ready.” She took Anwen’s hand. “You are everything that a good queen should be. Do not have any doubts today.” Her mother kissed her cheek.
“I don’t believe I will have any doubts, especially with my king by my side,” said Anwen.
“And I have no doubt my son chose very well for his queen and bride,” said Queen Evalin as Anwen’s mother stood back. “You have done very well preparing for today, and I look forward to you overseeing all the palace functions.”
“With your help, I hope,” said Anwen as she accepted a kiss on her cheek from Queen Evalin.
“I will help you however you need, my queen,” said Queen Evalin.
Anwen put on her dress with one of the servant’s help as Mrs. Owens oversaw. The other servant pulled up Anwen’s hair, leaving a few curls hanging down her neck. Once she was dressed and ready, Mrs. Owens dismissed the two servants with Anwen’s thanks.
“I believe you are ready, your majesty,” said Mrs. Owens as Anwen looked at herself in the mirror. “You look very beautiful and impressive.”
“I do love this dress, and my hair looks very proper. I hope all will find me presentable.”
“No one could find fault in you today or any other day,” said Mrs. Owens.
Anwen turned and took the older woman’s hand. “I am so thankful for you, Mrs. Owens. You have always been so kind to me, and I don’t know how I would have made it here without you.”
“I am just happy to serve such a kind woman as queen. I always knew our king would choose a good wife if he would just grow into who he was meant to be. I believe you helped him become who he is. With him as our king and you as our queen, I have no doubt only good things are in store for our kingdom.”
“I hope you are right, Mrs. Owens.”
A knock at the door made them both turn. Mrs. Owens walked over to open it. She curtsied as she let Maddoc into the room.
“I hope I am not interrupting anything,” said Maddoc as he looked at Mrs. Owens.
“The queen is ready for the ceremony. I just await her dismissal.”
“Thank you for everything, Mrs. Owens. I hope the servants enjoy their own celebrations later tonight.”
“They are looking forward to it, your majesty. I will leave you now with my good wishes for the perfect day.” Mrs. Owens curtsied again before leaving and closing the door behind her.
“I knew coming into this room was a mistake,” said Maddoc as he walked towards Anwen.
“How so?” asked Anwen as Maddoc took her hand.
“Because I knew as soon as I saw you, I would want nothing more than to keep you to myself.” Maddoc turned her around gently and pulled her to him.
Anwen looked in the mirror as he kissed her neck. He looked very handsome and imposing, wearing a dark blue shirt and black pants. He had a long blue robe attached around his neck, and on his head was his crown.
“You will ruin both of our appearances if you keep going, my king,” said Anwen as she leaned back into him.
“I couldn’t care less about our clothes today, Anwen,” said Maddoc quietly in her ear. “I just want this whole affair over so we can have some peace and quiet. We both have done nothing but work these past few months. I am very ready for some time alone with you.”
“Perhaps we will have few weeks after tonight. Then we will have to get ready for the Winter Festival, though it will not be very grand this year.”
“I can cancel the whole thing,” said Maddoc. “You will not need the burden of seeing to any feast or balls, and the land is still recovering from all that happened.”
“But the sickness is gone, and we had an excellent harvest. I think people will want to celebrate in some way while we honor those who were lost. We will have to see to a few feasts and dances. Your mother will help me, as will the new Lady Bennington now that she is back from traveling with her husband.” Anwen turned around to look at Maddoc. “When it is over, we shall have only a few weeks left until we meet our child.”
Maddoc looked down and placed his hands on her stomach. She could feel some of his power go through her as the child within her responded with a few good kicks.
“She already knows her father well,” said Maddoc as he gently rubbed Anwen’s stomach.
“You are still convinced our child is a girl?”
“Every day I become more sure of it.” Maddoc let go of her stomach and took Anwen’s hands. “She will be just like you, Anwen, bold, beautiful, intelligent, and strong.”
“I would like to think she would be like you as well,” said Anwen. “Thoughtful, passionate, and a capable leader. She will need all of it to be a good queen to Lucidala someday.”
One of Maddoc’s hands went to Anwen’s neck. He pulled her to him as he kissed her passionately. She brought her hands up to wrap around his neck, one creeping up to play with his hair. She eventually pulled back before he could go any further.
“We really do have to go, my king. I know it will be a long day, but we will get through it.”
“Not too long of a day, if you please. Perhaps, during the ball, you could claim fatigue, and I will have to escort you to our rooms. I am sure most will be having too much fun to notice if we leave early.”
“We will see how it goes. I have made sure to schedule a few moments for us to be alone in the throne room as others head to the ballroom. I believe you can think of a few ways I can spend my first few moments as the official Queen of Calumbria.”
“You have already officially been the queen for many months, but I will happily spend as long as you like in the throne room with you once you receive your crown.”
“Then let us go now before we keep our court and people waiting for too long.”
Maddoc nodded and let go of her hands. He stood by her side and offered her his arm. “The quicker we do this, the quicker we can move on to more interesting activities.”
She took his arm. “Very true, my king, and I look forward to serving you as your queen.”
He made a noise that was between a low growl and a groan which made Anwen laugh as they left the room.
The ceremony started in the temple. Though they were already married, Maddoc and Anwen said their words of promise to one another again in front of their court’s higher lords and ladies. Anwen meant every word she said as much as she did that day in the small village chapel in the north of their kingdom. She could tell Maddoc did as well as he looked at her with the same love and intensity as she remembered that day.
Once their promises were made, Anwen took a vow to serve her king and kingdom well. She bowed before the gods as the palace priests asked for a blessing from the gods. Anwen felt such an incredible feeling of peace overtake her that if she had any doubts about her place as Maddoc’s queen, they were no more.
Once the priests were satisfied with their prayers, she stood with Maddoc’s help. They waited with the priest as the high lords and ladies moved from the temple to the throne room. Once the room was clear, Maddoc escorted Anwen to the dais of the throne room. He held her hand as she climbed the few steps, following her to stand next to her close to the main throne where a small, golden circular crown sat on a white stand. The priest moved to stand on each side of the crown as Anwen stepped in front of Maddoc. The priest said some words, but Anwen would never remember them. She heard some shuffling behind her before Maddoc walked to stand in front of her with the small crown in his hand.
He gave her a slight smile before his face turned serious. “Will you rule with me, Anwen Claran-Cadden of Lucidala. Will you help me keep Calumbria safe and secure in times of prosperity and plenty? Will you help me raise Calumbria up during times of scarcity and famine? Will you support me as I keep the gods’ law over our kingdom?”
“I will do all of those things, your majesty. No one will come before you. I will keep the gods’ laws and honor the promises I have made to you.”
“And I will keep mine to you,” he said very quietly before he said louder, “Then kneel before me, my queen.”
Anwen carefully kneeled, feeling a little cumbersome with her substantial dress and large stomach. Maddoc must have noticed because he took one hand off the crown and held her hand as she made her way down. Once she was positioned, she bowed her head. Maddoc carefully placed the crown on her head. She looked up at him, and he held out his hand. She took it, and he helped her up.
They were announced as the King and Queen of Calumbria as the people applauded. Anwen looked out at the crowd to see Elias and Alys in front, close to Queen Evalin and her mother. On the other side of the room, she saw that King Brone looked completely recovered from his injuries in the summer. She was also happy to see Prince Rillian had managed to come with his father and brother.
Many came up to see her as they left the throne room. Elias bowed dramatically before taking her hand and kissing it, claiming the second dance of the evening. She leaned forward and gave lady Alys a short kiss on her cheek once the lady rose from her curtsey. Her mother had a few tears in her eyes as she greeted her with King Brone by her side. Brone introduced her to his cousin, and she found the young man to be handsome with a good-natured face.
Prince Rillian walked up to see Anwen with his father. She greeted the prince warmly, finding she had missed his company. She made him promise to visit during the Winter Festival though it would not be as grand as years before.
“You should stay after as well, your highness,” said Maddoc. “I would like someone besides Elias to support me as I become a father. He is rather distracted lately by his new bride.”
“I will be happy to stay as long as you like, your majesty.”
“We will talk more about later during this visit,” said Maddoc.
Anwen took well wishes from so many people that all the faces began to blend together. She tried to smile and appear gracious through the whole thing as her feet started to ache. Maddoc would occasionally grab her hand or rub her lower back for a moment, and she would feel her strength renewed.
Brennan and Roxana finally made their way up to see her followed by Lachlan and Gwendolyn. She hugged Brennan and Roxana, promising to visit with them in the ballroom. Gwendolyn curtsied to her as Lachlan bowed.
“I’m glad you could make it,” said Anwen as Gwendolyn stood back up.
“I was surprised you invited me, but I am very pleased to be here. Lachlan is here with your mother’s guards, but she allowed him to attend with his family.” She paused for a moment. “And as my betrothed.”
Anwen took a half step back. “Oh, I had not heard. I did not know if you still planned to marry.”
Gwendolyn looked at Lachlan before he turned to Anwen. “I made Gwendolyn a promise in front of our kingdom. As long as she still wants me, I will honor that promise.”
“We both want to do better with our lives, so we decided we try together. I hope you will wish us joy. I know you will not be able to come to our wedding. It will be very simple.”
“I do wish you joy,” said Anwen adamantly. “I hope you will be happy together.”
“I believe we will,” said Lachlan. “We both want the same things, quiet lives in service to our kingdom.”
Anwen nodded. “I take it you will marry soon since you think I won’t be able to make it as I shouldn’t travel far in the coming months. I will send a gift and give you my congratulations now. I am sure the king agrees with me.”
Maddoc nodded. “I hope you are both happy for many years.”
With that Gwendolyn and Lachlan moved on. They only had to greet a few more lower lords before the crowd was gone completely. Maddoc ordered the few servants and guards in the room away.
“Matthias, stand guard by the door and make sure no one disturbs us. I wish a moment or two with my queen,” said Maddoc.
Matthias bowed. “Of course, your majesty. I will see that you are not disturbed.”
He ushered out the guards and closed the door behind them, leaving Maddoc and Anwen alone.
Maddoc turned and took Anwen into his arms, kissing her immediately. “That took much too long,” he said between kisses.
“Perhaps, but it was necessary. It is over now, and we only have the meal and ball to get through. It will be over before you know it.”
“I shall have to share you with far too many people when we leave this room, so I will make the most of the short time we have.”
She smiled as she leaned back. “Now that you are properly dressed as the king, I would like to see you on your throne, your majesty.”
Maddoc smirked at her and bowed. “As you wish, my queen.” He walked over to the large throne and sat down, throwing his robe behind him. “What do you think?”
Anwen walked side to side and examined him. She raised an eyebrow. “You look very commanding sitting there. I think I might do anything you asked.”
He reached out and grabbed her having her sit down on his lap as she gave a small startled sound. “Then sit with me, my queen, because as I said before, this large chair is very lonely with just me in it.”
She laughed as his arms went around her. She turned so she could kiss him. “We cannot stay too long, Maddoc,” she said as he kissed her neck. “We are expected in the ballroom.”
One of Maddoc’s hands started gathering up her skirt. His hand brushed her thigh as his tongue darted out against the soft skin of her neck, causing her to sigh.
“We can take as long as we want, Anwen. Our court can entertain themselves for a while.”
She thought to protest, but Maddoc’s hand went further up her thigh as the other pulled her against him.
“Do you really wish to leave, my queen?” he asked.
She slightly shook her head.
“Then what would you have me do, my queen?” His head moved up to kiss the side of her face as his hand moved even higher.
“Love me, my king,” she said quietly.
He smiled as he adjusted her slightly in his lap. “As you command, my love.”